Every runner knows that walking during a run sort of feels like cheating. Runners only walk after they cross the finish line. Walking is often seen as a sign of weakness reserved for beginners, the injured and the defeated. After all, we call ourselves runners, not walkers. Right?
What should I do when I don’t feel like running?…walk!
Consider this: Jeff Galloway, former Olympic runner and professional running coach, ran his fastest ever marathon at the age of 35 coming in at a cool 2:16. He is now 74 years young with hundreds of marathons behind him and plenty more ahead. He hasn’t dealt with a running injury in over 40 years and has coached over 1 million runners to feel as great about running as he does.
His secret to his success?
After returning from the navy, Jeff was out of (running) shape and was attending graduate school at Florida State University. He started training with a goal to qualify for the Olympic trials and was quickly introduced to the heat and humidity of the Southeast. Without taking walk breaks Jeff would literally start to hallucinate during his runs.
He found that taking a one-minute walk break after each mile he ran dramatically increased his ability to train for the Olympics. He did qualify for the Olympics in 1972 and went on to run the 10,000-meter race in Munich representing the U.S. Several years later, he was asked to create a training program for beginning runners. He implemented the “Run Walk Run” theory that he used to train for the Olympics. However, he underestimated the effect he would have not only on beginning runners, but many advanced runners around the world.
Why walking is for everyone
Walking isn’t just for beginners or people getting back into running shape. Since Jeff began his “Run Walk Run” campaign, his team has done studies on how taking short walk breaks can improve runners of nearly all levels. They have found that someone who hasn’t previously used the “Run Walk Run” method improves their marathon time by an average of thirteen minutes when they incorporate walk breaks. Oh, and that PR Jeff set at the age of 35? Yep. He even took several walk breaks during his best marathon.
But how? Why?
For Jeff, it’s all about the mental game. When he takes walk breaks (which can last anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds) he is able to focus his mind on how he’s running. He does a quick check to make sure he isn’t slumped forward, his strides are landing correctly, and his overall form is flawless.
These short breaks have helped thousands of runners keep their energy up throughout long distance runs. Jeff also attributes his injury-free running career to this technique. Each break allows him time to refocus on race strategy, correct bad form, and give his legs a short break. Better form and less fatigue is the key to injury prevention. Short breaks from running make that possible. So, what are you waiting for? Start walking!
Having a positive running attitude
Jeff approaches running with an immense amount of positivity, which he mostly attributes to his parents. Just listening to Jeff’s voice gives you the impression that he could spend hours giving advice to any inquisitive runner. In fact, he spends 5 to 6 hours a day answering emails from his running students.
In this podcast, Jeff relates two heart-warming stories that show his genuine spirit. After qualifying for the Olympic 10k, Jeff made it his personal goal to help his good friend Jack Bacheler qualify for the marathon event after Jack did not qualify for the 10k. Jeff paced Jack for that trial event and slowed down during the last few seconds to allow Jack to take the final spot on the team. Jeff Galloway also talks about his favorite student he ever had. That student went from only being able to run the distance between two telephone poles, to qualifying for Boston at the age of 75. (Listen to the podcast to find out who that student was. No spoilers!)
Approaching a race as you age is something Jeff has mastered. At some point everyone has to face the fact that their body can’t do what it once could. Joining a strong community of runners and having the attitude of “we’re all in this together” can help ease the transition. Jeff recommends changing your goals as you age. “I can focus on something else,” he says, “I can be injury free. I can enjoy every run. I can run with family and friends.”
Running (and walking) is for everyone. Coming to terms with how YOU run is important to experiencing lifelong running fulfillment. Being real with your own training and avoiding the comparison trap is crucial to being a healthy and successful runner. This is Running for Real.
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